A dark-tipped hairy leg tentatively pats out onto an Ivy leaf. Timidly a middle sized brown spider creeps out. 8 pairs of eyes gleam in the moonlight as a pale band leads down the centre of the Cephalothorax, channeled by two darker stripes. Attached, eight dotted legs touch the substrate, a coarse black hair darting off at intervals. A slightly more orange abdomen varies in pattern but has one defining feature, a pair of chevrons pointing directly forward. He is a Buzzing Spider, Anyphaena accentuata.
Waving his miniature boxing glove-like pedipalps in front of him, he scans the area. Spotting a female in the distance, his eyes light up and he lowers his abdomen onto the leaf. Suddenly, using specialised high-tension muscles, he raps his abdomen on the leaf in short sharp bursts. Such is the frequency of his movement, an excited little buzz is emitted. Darting from side to side he enthusiastically jumps off his leaf to find the female. Carefully he patters over and creeps up onto her leaf. Manoeuvring himself in front of her, he can finally see her properly. Similar in size to him she lacks pedipalps and has a slightly rounder and paler abdomen. However, she is quite selective and it will take more than a long-distance buzz to impress her!
Buzzing Spider Love
To garner her full attention he slowly raises his front pair of legs high into the air, watching her carefully he now begins to move jauntily from side to side. Working harder he stops and vibrates his abdomen on the leaf, buzzing optimistically. Still not happening, he attempts a more drastic dance. Moving erratically and waving arms, he taps his abdomen rhythmically on the waxy leaf surface. Punctuating his movements with regular buzzes, he sings to his spider love.
Although now definitely interested, the female waits to enjoy the dance a while longer. Incredibly, he can keep up this energy consuming courtship behaviour for an average time of 62 minutes! The longest recorded courtship procedure is a mammoth 148 minutes, although some last just 4, depending on how choosy the female is. If deemed worthy he will be allowed to copulate with her.
The world of Buzzing Spider courtship is determined fully by the female’s choice. A study has shown that when previously mated females were introduced to virgin males, even if courtship continued for well over 2 hours, mating would never occur.
If you do go down to the woods as night has fallen in the next few weeks (end of February), keep an ear out for hopeful little buzzes.